At Work & Theology 101

Following Christ’s Example of Foot-Washing in the Workplace

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John was a new employee with the company and had been thrown into the middle of a major technical crisis. He had no experience, no training, and no resources for the work he had just been hired to do. He was on his own.

One by one, he began calling employees in the company looking for help. And one by one, they refused. They all had their own pile of work and did not want to take time to walk the new guy through something he had been hired to do. It was not their job.

The last call John made was to Ed, whose reaction was different. Ed viewed his job in light of the sacred purpose of work. He was working for his heavenly Father. It was just another normal day’s event for Ed to help John simply because he asked. Together Ed and John spent hours on the phone walking through and solving the problem.

It’s been several years since that encounter. John has since left the company, but he has kept in contact with Ed from across the country.

John always brings up the experience. He describes the rejection and the isolation he felt, making call after call, until his last hope, Ed. John remembers Ed as being understanding, welcoming, kind, friendly, and, most importantly, that Ed hung in there with John until the job was done, never losing patience.

The Gift of Lowliness

What was an ordinary event for Ed was an extraordinary experience for John. It was a powerful moment for which John was very grateful. It has led to many other conversations and a friendship.

Lead a life worthy of your call, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love (Eph. 4:1-2, RSV).

“It was about being a good steward of the gift of lowliness.” Ed told me. “Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, modeled lowliness and meekness, wrapping a towel around his waist and washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-7).

“I’m convinced that without practicing this gift of lowliness, we obscure our other gifts at work and render them pointless.

“I’m a good communicator and I have strong technical and organizational skills. If I had not chosen to practice lowliness that day and had convinced myself I was too good for this person, my other gifts would never have gotten a chance to shine through.

“The people I encounter each day are not ‘speed bumps’ along the path of my personal to-do list,” Ed concluded. “I’m called to use my talents to serve others. I just need to make sure I keep this in mind. Getting my daily prayer in helps a lot.”

The Sacredness of Work

And the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Work is God’s gift. Our own self-centeredness and selfishness pollute it. But in Christ, we are called to live out the sacred purpose of work. This seems abstract and theological until we encounter a true-life parable like Ed and John.

Ed’s welcoming actions were fresh air in a work culture contaminated with rejection. Ed’s interaction with John reflected Christ in the midst of a toxic culture.

Observing what was going on between Ed and John looks very ordinary, at the very least, it was kind and considerate. But Ed and John’s interaction became more significant as Ed shone forth the humility and meekness of Christ.

When everyone turned their back on John, Ed responded in love and service. He was cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the work of renewal and restoration.

Stewards of Creation

God calls us to be stewards of creation. This includes stewarding our relationship with God, our workplaces, what we do, and those we encounter.

We are called to be other “Christs” in our workplaces. This is only possible if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and being transformed by him. The “lowliness” that Ed talked about is the way we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in us and let our individual gifts and talents be put to the work of restoring God’s creation.

When the other workers turned their backs on John, leaving him adrift, it was not what God intended. Their actions only added to the desecration of the true purpose of work.

Ed did the opposite. He lived in light of his sacred calling in the workplace. And, as usual, the Holy Spirit was very proficient; he revealed the sacredness of work, moved in John’s heart, and transformed Ed with “on-the-job” training. But Ed had to be willing to cooperate with the Spirit for that to happen.

He kept himself in a “low place,” following Christ’s example of humility. By receiving and welcoming John with the love of God, he reflected the true holiness of his calling. Let us, too, follow Christ’s example.

 

Editor’s note: Learn more about how your work is part of God’s grand plan of redemption in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.

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  • Cindy Tait

    Really appreciated this commentary. So many Christians come back from a couple of counseling sessions and all they can talk about is their new found ‘boundaries’ – this example showed someone who responded to the cry for help and went beyond his work pile and helped someone else with theirs….with a life changing effect on a young man and to the pleasure of the Father for the gift of time and sincere help.

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